DEBATING BLOOMBERG’S HEALTH COMMISSIONER

January 6, 2014

To the Editor:

I attended the World AIDS Day Breakfast and I spoke with Commissioner Farley in regards to his plans for HIV/AIDS (“AIDS Activists Demand New Health Commissioner,” by Duncan Osborne, Jan. 8). He mentioned he was going to unveil a campaign which would be resourceful to anyone seeking info on the how, when, what, where to get services. I agree with my colleagues Gina Quattrochi and Charles King that we need someone who’s going to address this epidemic in NYC as well as the future of HIV/ AIDS.

Our new mayor, Bill De Blasio, should be held accountable for selecting someone who will take our needs more seriously.

Shirlene Cooper

 

January 7, 2014

To the Editor:

Farley's utter lack of leadership on HIV/ AIDS is a scandal. The man is only interested in controlling what people eat and drink. He's completely clueless about sexuality, and even worse, like his predecessor Thomas Frieden, he's hostile to gay men's sexual cultures. He wrote a book in which he condemned the sexual revolution of the ‘60s and one of his first acts as a consultant to Frieden was to prepare a “white paper” recommending that the city shut down the baths and other sex venues.

Then just look at the management of the HIV/ AIDS bureau at DOHMH –– entirely heterosexual –– in a city where gay men and other “MSM” [men who have sex with men] account for the majority of new infections. Gay men were almost completely marginalized by Farley and Monica Sweeney, a self-promoting mediocrity. Blayne Cutler, a straight woman whose main experience in HIV prevention was a research project at Columbia focusing on women, has been the city's director of HIV prevention far too long.

Early on in the epidemic, gay men mobilized and provided community-based education and prevention services that saved many lives –– mine included. But the straight doctors and health bureaucrats (city, state, and federal), with their “interventions” developed mainly in university settings, have run the show for some time now, and the results –– awful –– are evident. Since 2005, the DOHMH has followed a medical model that is insufficient to prevent an illness that always has had social, cultural, and political dimensions.

Farley and his ilk don't believe in supporting community empowerment and organizing. De Blasio needs to replace useless Farley with a real leader, and fast.

George de Stefano

 

January 8, 2014

To the Editor:

Wow, this has not been my experience at all. As a positive person sitting on a consumer advisory committee, I had the opportunity to have some interaction with Blayne Cutler and found her to be very responsive to the needs of positive people in New York City. She was extremely attentive when I spoke in my role as representative of the HIV-positive community. This was not my only interaction with her.

On another occasion, the organization I work for, Exponents, Inc., had our ARRIVE Program graduation, comprised mostly of gay men, and Blayne Cutler showed up, uninvited, to support the graduates in their most current achievement. She did this inconspicuously, because when we saw her we asked her to come up and speak and she was reluctant to take the focus from the participants. She went on to make a moving, inspirational, and empowering speech that left the participants feeling even more proud on their special day –– by being acknowledged by someone so prominent who took time out of her evening to celebrate the participants’ accomplishments. We felt her commitment then and now. New York City will continue to benefit from her effort and commitment.

Dana Diamond

 

January 10, 2014

To the Editor:

Being a gay African-American HIV-positive male coming from a community disproportionately affected by HIV/ AIDS, as well as the fact that I have been working in this field for a long time, I believe I have good judgment and the skill base and knowledge to effectively share my views. First, after meeting Commissioner Farley for the first time, I didn't find him to be hostile toward me or my sexuality or offensive in any way. I found him to be very engaging, concerned, and interested in what I had to say about HIV/ AIDS, particularly in relation to MSMs. I believe with the support and commitment from our community, which he would certainly need to fill his job, he would be successful.

Secondly, Dr. Monica Sweeney is definitely a force to be reckoned with. I was deeply saddened when she resigned from her post at DOHMH. After having many conversations with Dr. Sweeney, I know for a fact that she is neither self-promoting nor mediocre. She came from a humble, community-based medical establishment in BedStuy, Brooklyn, and she did wonderful things for the disenfranchised community.

Thirdly, Dr. Blayne Cutler… I recall my very first interaction with her was when I was interviewed for a seat on the HIV Planning Group (HPG), which should have been 20 minutes in length and it turned out to be an hour and a half long. Dr. Cutler was concerned about my views, particularly on MSMs of color who are HIV-positive and how we can address this issue in the National HIV/ AIDS Strategy. Dr. Cutler also mentioned that she wanted to bring the HPG back to substance and relevance. I am not overly concerned how this straight woman, whose entrance into this field was via a “research project at Columbia University,” got here, I'm just glad she did.

Tracy Mack

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